At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.

A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.

Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.

The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."

One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”

By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."


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Recent News: 12 String Guitars

Source: Google News

Just 'Irish guys having a laugh'
Times Colonist, April 17th

For this tour, White (switching between 12-string guitar and bass) and Fearing are joined by drummer Kent Macrae. The music on this tour is a little more hard-rocking, says Fearing, who alternates between electric and acoustic guitars. Prior to...Read more

Temples: "Katy Perry ruinedeverything for everyone"
FasterLouder, April 16th

They identify the 12-string guitar with The Beatles or The Byrds. I guess it's songwriting at the end of the day. These songs hopefully have an original sense to them, even if you take away the production and just play them on an acoustic guitar; they...Read more

Regrouping: Talbott Brothers return with stronger band
Sioux City Journal, April 16th

He eventually upgraded to a 12-string guitar, playing with friends in bands and banishing his younger brother from rehearsal. "He was cramping my rock star mentality," Nick joked. They grew up watching their father rise from sweeping floors to managing...Read more

Singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield Offers a Track-by-track Analysis of Her ...
Cleveland Scene Weekly, April 15th

This one is another 12-string guitar song. It's about a housewife wondering if she can get everything she wants to get done and do a bunch of nice shit before she kills herself. It's just something that popped into my head. It's about when you get...Read more

Odds Bodkin to pay visit
Wicked Local Concord, April 15th

At Bodkin's 2:30 p.m. show, Awesome Tales for Older Kids, the stories are geared more to children ages 8 and up, including "The Stonecutter," a Japanese folk tale performed on 12-string guitar; "The Boys and the Frogs," an Aesop's fable performed on...Read more

Trio rides in to play
Market Rasen Mail, April 15th

The Midlands-based trio comprises the powerful vocals and guitar of Jamie Knight and the bottleneck and finger-picking skills of Ben Church – powered by Weissenborn guitar, acoustic and 12 string guitar, banjo, harmonica and stomp box. Created by Jamie ...Read more

Star Apps: Joe Satriani
CNET, April 14th

It's got a great tuner, and then it's got all sorts of interesting things to play around with, like a banjo, mandolin, 12-string guitar -- all sorts of stuff. I use the camera a lot, believe it or not. I love drawing and taking pics of my drawings and...Read more

Local pastor performs songs on rare harp guitars
Newnan Times-Herald, March 30th

“I love the big, ringing sound of a 12-string guitar,” said Riley, before playing “Only a hobo” in honor of his late uncle, who helped with Friends of the Hobos, an organization that assisted hobos as their culture became marginalized. “[This harp...Read more